Own Label OJM009

The nyckelharpa is rare even in its native Sweden, but suddenly we're inundated with recordings of it. I must have reviewed three this year already, which is a good thing: there's an "Angels & Demons" heavenly duality to this instrument which I love. Olov Johansson usually plays his nyckelharpa with Swedish folk stars Våsen, but here he's joined by innovative Shetland harper Catrion McKay for an album of big, earthy, Nordic music. The mood is more Scandinavian than Celtic, but not unlike the darker moments of Liz Doherty, Mary Custy, or Aly Bain's forays into Swedish folk.

A generous dozen tracks at around five minutes each means there's plenty to enjoy on Foogy, from Olov's First Class to Glasgow to Catriona's Stolen Watch Reel.  Among a dozen or so of their own compositions, Olov and Catriona play traditional tunes from Sweden, Shetland and Scotland. There's a lovely version of Da Shaalds o' Foula a classic Shetland tune which Catriona learnt from fiddler Chris Stout. A charming old polska from Småland sits well with Catriona's Early Sun Polska. Olov's composition Astrids Vals and the traditional Swedish Byss-Calle Vals show the range and power of the nyckelharpa, not to mention Ms McKay's taste for way-out harmonies. Catriona's modern harping comes to the fore in The Harper's Dismissal, a tune from legendary Gaelic harper Rory Morrison. The two instruments complement each other beautifully throughout this album, producing a full and rich sound which is as ancient as the tradition with the freshness of today's young virtuoso musicians. The CD packaging is also striking, with colourful graphics and informative notes. Shame about the title, but hey, nobody's perfect! Online info is available from or - no dot com nonsense here.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 84 of The Living Tradition magazine.